Seasons 52

Seasons 52, a relatively new chain restaurant that landed on the Plaza in late 2011, bills itself as a grill and wine bar featuring fresh and seasonal fare. Each dish is less than 475 calories, and desserts are 250 calories or less.

Our local outpost is quite attractive, a cross in design between Houston’s and Capital Grille. Both Capital Grille and Seasons are owned by the Darden group, so the similarities are not coincidental. And both wine lists were created by the same sommelier. They each have that clubby feel and, like Houston’s, the bar has booths for dining. I prefer the ambiance in the bar, especially on evenings when a piano player is in the house.

On each of my visits, the food was consistently solid and the service polished and flawless. The menu is extensive, so diners can really make the meal whatever they want it to be, whether soup and salad, flatbread and a glass of wine, or meat and potatoes. What diners won’t find is excitement. I’ve enjoyed most everything I’ve ordered, but none of it was so flavorful or interesting that I would rush back.

The first time my husband and I dined there, we simply wanted a quick bite. I had  the Maui Tuna Crunch Salad sushi-grade seared tuna, tropical organic greens, toasted almonds and miso vinaigrette. Very nice, but could have used a few more calories to add some oomph. Or even a few vegetables.

My husband had the spicy chicken relleno which happily, unlike the versions you see at most Mexican restaurants, was not battered and fried. This appetizer  combines the chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and spinach and sits on pico de gallo. Light and flavorful, but again, could have benefitted from some heat. (Though I’m not suggesting everything has to be spicy, I’m not into bland).

My next visit was complimentary, and came with an invitation to sample the new winter menu. Since Seasons 52 is known for their flatbreads, we started with the spicy chipotle shrimp flatbread, which was flavored with poblano peppers, grilled pineapple and feta. Not my favorite ingredients, but the dish was well-executed. The flatbread was thin and crisp, and attractively served on a long, narrow wood board.

Our server said that the stuffed mushrooms are one of the most popular appetizers, so we ordered those as well. The mushrooms are stuffed with spinach, crab and shrimp and topped with bread crumbs. They were  cleverly served in an escargot style plate, with the mushrooms in the holes that are usually reserved for snails, allowing them to retain their heat. Unexciting, but perfectly acceptable.

I ordered the  Maple Leaf Farms Sesame Duck Chop Salad with apples, mint, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted pecans for my entrée. The salad was layered and came in a cylinder which the server gently pulled off as part of the presentation. (I’ve seen this done at Gram and Dun as well.) I was glad A.G. Sulzberger of the New York Times wasn’t there since the salad was in fact, comprised of almost all iceberg lettuce. The duck was well-done, but they had not asked my preference, so I’m not sure if that’s typical or not.

One of the specials of the evening was called a seared tuna noodle bowl. Though it ironically came on a large plate, it was gorgeous and contained a variety of Asian vegetables. Though redolent with ginger, it was a bit salty and again lacked a kick.

Desserts come in shot glasses, and there are 8 from which to choose. We tried the key lime pie and carrot cake. Both are, of course, deconstructed and layered in the shot glass. I especially enjoyed the key lime, with its sugary bites of graham cracker crust. 

At Seasons 52, diners can expect an enjoyable experience. I wasn’t wowed by the food; nor could I find anything objectionable. I was certainly impressed with the smooth service and relaxed setting, both of which should make this well-conceived chain a success in our town.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

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